Pictured: Kyle Casey slams home one of two dunks at Georgtown earlier this season (Jeff Malet)
-Courtesy Dan Duggan, Boston Herald
Three years ago, Kyle Casey didn't picture himself at Harvard. As a junior at Brimmer & May School in Chestnut Hill, Casey went to a Crimson game with his coach, Greg Kristof, and came away unimpressed.
"I didn't think I would end up at Harvard," Casey said. "To be honest, I wasn't even too happy the first time I saw them play. I talked to my high school coach, and it wasn't a pleasant conversation to say the least. But I gave it a chance."
Casey still kept an eye on Harvard, which went 8-22 in coach Tommy Amaker's first season.
The program has improved steadily since, and Casey liked what he saw so much that he picked Harvard over a number of higher-profile programs, including Providence, Vanderbilt, Stanford and Davidson.
"Things have definitely turned around since then," Casey said. "I saw what the coaching staff was doing and I really believed in what they were doing,"
With Harvard off to the best start in program history (12-3), Casey hasn't given his decision a second thought. The freshman forward has broken out in the past four games, averaging 16.8 points and 5.8 rebounds.
"I think he's playing really hard, I think he's had some success and I think that can lead to more and more confidence," Amaker said. "I think his teammates are showing a hell of a lot more confidence in him. He's had that in himself and he's playing like it."
For the season, Casey is averaging 9.1 points and 4.6 rebounds in 18.8 minutes off the bench. After a relatively slow start, the Medway native quickly discovered he wouldn't be able to simply rely on his athleticism as he had at Brimmer & May.
"At the college level, everybody is bigger. I think that was the biggest adjustment for me," Casey said. "I'm getting more comfortable with the offense and kind of picking my spots when to attack and when to run the offense. I definitely have a better feel for the college game, so I think that's helped out a lot."
Though Casey is picking his spots, don't be fooled - his athleticism is still a major weapon. The 6-foot-7, 215-pounder with a 42-inch vertical leap has attacked the basket aggressively recently, getting to the free throw line a combined 29 times (making 24) in wins against George Washington and Santa Clara.
"That just shows you he's being what I referred to when we recruited him," Amaker said. "We wanted him to be active, athletic and aggressive, and that's exactly what leads to some of those kinds of numbers. He's doing it incredibly well for us."
Casey is one of the top recruits Amaker has landed at Harvard. In a testament to the job the coach has done building the program, Casey said basketball was as big a factor as academics in his decision.
"All of the schools I was considering were pretty good academic schools, but Harvard is Harvard," Casey said. "It doesn't get much better than that. I thought with the academics and with the basketball staff and players and what everybody in the community has going, I just felt like it was something special and I wanted to be a part of it."